Tag Archives: mobile tour

OnCell Partnership with U.S. Forest Service Aims to Launch an App for Every Forest

28 Dec

New Mobile App Program will Help Educate and Guide Forest Visitors

Daniel Boone National Forest Mobile App

The Daniel Boone National Forest App is the first app to be launched under the Forest Service’s new mobile app program. It is available for download in the App Store and Google Play.

ROCHESTER, N.Y., Dec. 28, 2016 –OnCell has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to launch a mobile tour app for every forest. Working with theTravel, Tourism and Interpretation section of the Forest Service, OnCell has worked diligently to provide a foundation that gives each forest an opportunity to provide educational mobile tours for visitors. The mobile apps will be rolled out gradually, with the goal of launching all sites by mid-2017.

OnCell, a leader in the mobile tour space for museums, parks, and destinations, will provide the backend technology to build, launch, and manage the tours. All the apps will be constructed with OnCell’s app building platform.

“The new mobile program for forest destinations is very exciting,” says Thomas Dunne, President and CEO of OnCell. “A smartphone is a valuable part of a traveler’s toolkit. The apps will be a great way for forest rangers and staff to provide educational interpretive messages and real time alerts to visitors through their personal devices.”

OnCell will help each forest launch an app with ranger and staff-curated educational content, historic images, maps, and visitor information. After the app is launched, each forest will take over the mobile project and use the app builder to extend the experience with more points of interest and additional wayfinding information. Rangers will also use the app to send time sensitive messages to users, such as closures.

As part of the program, OnCell has worked closely with the Forest Service to develop a special look and feel for the apps that is in line with the Forest Service’s identity.

“The app design created for the Forest Service is just beautiful,” says Dunne. “We wanted visitors to instantly recognize the apps as an extension of the Forest Service, with confidence it will provide relevant and accurate information for their visit.”

A portal app will also be developed that houses every forest app. People can download the portal app to locate nearby forests and take virtual tours across the country.

The Forest Service tested a pilot program with OnCell in 2015, with five forests participating and building their own apps.

Apps for six forests will be available for download early January 2017, with the portal app launching early 2017. Apps slated to be released include, Lake Tahoe Basin in California, Daniel Boone in Kentucky, and San Juan in Colorado.

Visitors can access the apps by downloading them from the App Store or Google Play.

About OnCell

OnCell provides a full range of mobile tour technologies for museums, parks, and cultural destinations. With a variety of interactive services such as a DIY app builder, native and web apps, audio guides, beacon tours, and scavenger hunts, OnCell helps organizations become mobile-friendly. As mobile communication experts who are passionate about the arts and education, the OnCell team has worked on over 2,200 projects both in the U.S. and internationally since its inception in 2006.

Contact:
Monica Barndt, Director of Marketing, OnCell, mbarndt@oncell.com

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$49 Do-It-Yourself Audio Guides For Museums, Parks, & Cultural Destinations

24 Feb

OnCell-TourSphere Launches New Product to Help All Organizations Go Mobile

PITTSFORD, N.Y., February 24, 2015–OnCell-TourSphere, a leader in the mobile technology space for museums, parks, and cultural destinations, has announced today a new product, a $49 DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Audio Guide that will enable organizations to easily create affordable, engaging audio tours.

The New York-based company works closely with museums and cultural destinations to develop audio tours and apps with their core product, an easy-to-use content management system that allows organizations to upload media content, create points of interest, and output mobile tours. Visitors are given instant access to educational content through their mobile devices.

“We’ve streamlined our product offerings to provide cultural sites of all sizes a way to educate their visitors,” says Thomas Dunne, President and CEO of OnCell-TourSphere. “So many organizations have amazing stories to tell, but operate on a shoestring budget–we want to give them the opportunity to tell their story regardless of how much funding they receive.”

The new $49 DIY Audio Guide plan allows organizations to quickly build their own audio guides, which are accessible via a local phone number and mobile app.

OnCell-TourSphere technology has powered thousands of mobile tours for the National Park Service, US Forest Service, museums, and historic homes.

About OnCell-TourSphere
OnCell-TourSphere provides a full range of mobile tour solutions integrated onto a single platform, a DIY app builder. With a variety of interactive services such as smartphone apps, mobile web apps, audio tours, beacons, mobile surveys, geo-fencing, and scavenger hunts, OnCell-TourSphere helps cultural
sites and organizations become mobile-friendly to meet the needs of the growing mobile audience. As mobile communication experts who are passionate about the arts and education, the OnCell-TourSphere team has worked on over 2,000 projects both in the U.S. and internationally since its inception in 2006.


Contact:
Monica Barndt
Director of Marketing
OnCell-TourSphere
(585) 419-9844

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5 Strategies for Marketing Your Mobile Tour

15 Sep

Once your mobile tour is launched, you need to make sure people know about it! Marketing and strategic promotion are key. Here are some tips to help you successfully increase awareness and encourage use of your tour.

1) Create Prominent Signage
Signage, signage, signage! We can’t stress this enough! Your visitor won’t use your tour if they don’t know it exists, so a successful tour is one that is prominently promoted. Catch your visitor’s attention as soon as they are onsite–promote the tour with signage in the lobby and admissions area. Countertop signs, brochures, and wall plaques by each point of interest should all point to your app URL or have a QR code to scan. Be sure your front end and gallery staff are knowledgeable about the tour and can explain to visitors not only how to use it, but how it benefits their experience.

2) Market Your App on Your Website
Most visitors hit your website looking for the latest information about exhibits, events, programs, or general visitor information. This is a great time to promote your tour, as they are already in the planning stages of their visit. Link to the tour and offer a QR code to access it on your website, so visitors can save it for their upcoming visit or download it in advance. You can even have a dedicated page on your website that talks about the tour in detail.

3) Utilize Your Online Network
Use your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram networks to promote your tour to an audience that has already shown an interest in learning more about your organization. Be sure to link directly to the tour. If you have a blog, write a post on the tour that has an alternative spin than the usual press release. You should also make an announcement in your newsletter. A blast to your entire staff to experience the tour will not only keep them informed, but can also tap their own social media channels. Partner organizations, such as regional museum associations, sponsors, and your industry’s listservs should be notified as well to spread the word.

4) Media & PR
Write a press release announcing your tour and publish it via PR distribution websites. You can also submit it directly to your local newspapers, news channels, and other bloggers and media outlets who have covered your organization in the past. Let them all know about your new tour and invite them take the tour and interview both visitors using it and the staff that has been working on it.

5) Hold a Launch Event
A launch event is your chance to make a big debut for you tour and a great way to enhance your media campaign. Invite narrators, board members, media, sponsors and partners. Have the Director of your organization speak about what inspired the project, how it was developed, and what you hope to accomplish. You can play samples from the tour, and have narrators and other contributors share their experience in creating it. If you don’t have the funds to hold a launch event try to tie the tour launch into another event or anniversary already scheduled.

Now that your tour has been launched, continue to promote it! Be sure to keep up with the social media campaign, with links back to the tour. Keeping your app content fresh will keep old users interested and pique the interest of new ones. Continue to enlist your front end and gallery staff as they are constantly interacting with your visitors and are a valuable way to encourage use.

Have questions about marketing your tour? Contact our Director of Marketing, Monica Barndt, to learn more!

Historic Peirce Mill Re-launches Mobile Tour App for the 2014 Season

23 May

Perice MillPeirce Mill is the last existing mill in the District of Columbia and the only 19th-century gristmill maintained by the National Park Service that operates on a full-time basis. On the National Register of Historic Places, Peirce Mill is a living museum and tribute to the 1820s economy of America and D.C.’s agrarian past. Despite changes over time, the sturdy exterior and interior retain the authentic appearance and atmosphere of a 19th century grist mill, with 170 year-old stone walls, authentic wooden milling machinery, hand-hewn beams and columns, and heavy oak floor boards.

Created by the Friends of Peirce Mill, this app has new additions for 2014.

“We looked forward to the re-launch as we were really pleased with the number of visits during the initial run of the app, and we’re sure it will continue to be a popular mobile website for visitors to Rock Creek National Park,” says Steve Dryden, Program Manager for the Friends of Peirce Mill.

This mobile tour app details how the mill works through a hand-drawn interactive image, details the mills restoration, and its history with archival photography.  Learn about the native wildflowers at the Nature Center, other mills in the Rock Creek, and find markers for trails to reach Peirce Mill with the GPS-enabled map.

“We made revisions this year so visitors can understand the larger picture of milling on Rock Creek, including the little known fact that President John Quincy Adams owned a mill less than a mile downstream from the Peirce’s,” says Dryden. “The mill is a fun place to visit and always attracts crowds, but as its hours open to the public are limited, we need the presence given  by the app.  And, the mill history and technology is somewhat complicated, so the app gives people a head start in understanding the site. There’s a good deal of information on other destinations related to the mill and our nonprofit group, so the app is important for visitors who don’t necessarily stop by the mill itself.”

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

 

App Spotlight: Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area

16 Apr

March-14-Blog-smartphone-NFUR-homeThe Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area celebrates and preserves the wealth of places and stories associated with the Underground Railroad found within the City of Niagara Falls and the surrounding region. During the 1800s the city was an established border crossing and served a critical role in the Underground Railroad by providing safe passage of slaves into Canada via ferry and the Suspension Bridge. Within the region there was an active network of Abolitionists and anti-slavery activists that helped provide money, food, and shelter to fugitive slaves, in addition to providing jobs and education to African Americans.

OnCell-TourSphere worked closely with the Heritage Area Committee and Environmental Design & Research, a landscape and environmental design consulting firm, to create a custom designed tour app that details the many historic sites across the region. The app consists of both a walking and driving tour, which overlap across multiple sites. The app offers interpretation via detailed history and historic imagery, and includes an interactive map which marks the tour routes.

Scan the QR code to tour the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage app or visit: http://niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.toursphere.com

Scan the QR code to tour the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage app or visit:
http://niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.toursphere.com

5 Tips and Tricks From an App Builder

27 Jun

Building an app does not have to be a long or frustrating experience. Knowing best practices and familiarizing yourself with our CMS to know basic features will go a long way. Here are a few tips to keep in mind so you can maximize your time and meet your launch date:

1. Organize Your Content
Keep your app build moving by organizing your final assets. Sounds obvious, right? But you wouldn’t believe how frequently we come across assets in the Project Library that are poorly labeled or redundant. Not paying attention to naming conventions can make the library cluttered and confusing.

The easiest way to organize is to create a folder on your computer for each asset type, e.g., video, audio, images. Keep your file names simple, Site 1, Site 2, etc. or 01-Introduction, 02-Site Name.

Think about other contributors on the project. If they were to look at the files in your library, would they be able to easily determine which files should be placed on each page?

2. Bulk Upload Assets
Now that all of your assets are organized, save a substantial amount of time by bulk uploading your files in the Project Library. You may upload as many assets as you like simply by selecting multiple files from your computer. After the upload begins, you can navigate away from the library and work on other parts of your app.

3. Drag and Drop
Once you have added widgets to a page, you can move them around the page by clicking on one and dragging it above or below another. This trick also works within the List widget. If links are set in a list and you want to reorder them, simply click on the list widget to open the editor and drag and drop to move them around.

4. Copy Pages
Take advantage of the Copy Page feature in the builder. Chances are you have created a typical page layout—such as a site page—copy this page and you’ll save precious time. You’ll need to replace page titles, files, and text, but you will not have to rebuild the base structure every time. The Copy Page feature is located above the Page List in our CMS.

5. Set Links Last
We have found best practice is to use an “assembly line” approach when building your app. Once you have all of your pages built, the next step is to set the links that determine the flow of your app—these are primarily links for buttons and site lists. If all the pages have been built, there is no need to toggle back and forth between newly created pages and pages that contain links to them. Creating links as a final step allows you to easily flow from page to page. It’s also a great way to identify any pages that still need to be created.

3 Museums with Award-Winning Apps!

26 Jun

It’s been a great year so far for our clients!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art won a prestigious 2013 MUSE Award from the American Association of Museums last month — in the  Games and Augmented Reality category. Built on the TourSphere mobile platform, and co-produced with Green Door Labs, Murder at the Met: An American Art Mystery is a mobile detective game . Visitors use their smartphone to explore museum objects and interview suspects and witnesses in order to solve the murder of Virgine Gautreau, the woman immortalized in Jean Singer Sargent’s masterpiece Madame X.

Gore Place and the deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum took First Place and Honorable Mention, respectively, for Best Mobile App at the 2013 New England Museum Association Awards. Both apps are outdoor self-guided GPS tours that offer detailed interpretations of their grounds.

The American Association for State & Local History also awarded the Gore Place app with a 2013 Award of Merit.

We’re always honored to work with such fantastic clients – congratulations from all of us here at TourSphere!

Award Winners

The Importance of Owning Your Own Content

20 Feb

Imagine hiring a carpenter to build you a new kitchen cabinet. You pay him for the job, he builds something pretty spiffy, and you’re pleased. But then you read the fine print in the contract, and you see that even though you paid him for the work, he (not you) actually owns the cabinet. 

Many museums have experienced something similar (although hopefully it didn’t come as a surprise) when creating an Audio Tour or an App. You hire an outside company to produce audio or video content, and it stipulates in the contract that they have partial or complete ownership of the content.

This means that you don’t own what you paid for. It means you have to get permission – and perhaps pay a fee – to make any changes, or to use that content in places other than your audio tour.  And it doesn’t expire after a year or two – that applies to the life of the content.

This is the way it was done, at times, in the past. Please do not let this happen again. 

Times have changed. The market is competitive. Production costs have come spiraling down. You can either produce high-quality content in-house or often hire it out for a reasonable price. And you will own the content 100%.  

Owning your content means you have FREEDOM!  It puts you and your organization in control and it means you can get more value out of your audio tour content.  If you have 10 videos that showcase your museum and its collection why not extend the use of those videos to beyond the tour?  You can place them on your website, put them on your organization’s FaceBook page, in email newsletter’s etc.  In this era of mass-consumption of information, content truly is king.  Make sure you own yours.

Have you run into this issue? Where you used a third-party to produce content – and they retained ownership? Any advice you’d give to other folks out there based on your experience?

For more on producing your own content in-house check out our do-it-yourself series.

Five Reasons Every Hotel Should Have a Mobile Tour

23 Jan

If you’re a hotel, you spend a lot of time and effort to provide information to your guests. Racks of brochures line the lobby with info about the surrounding area, and a concierge is available to talk with guests about shopping and dining options. But what about having a smartphone app for the hotel – where guests could access all of this information instantly?

hotels-feature-image_1A mobile app can be an awesome marketing and customer service tool for hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts and hostels. We work with large and small properties – and a hotel app provides an opportunity to engage your guests before, during and after their stay.

Here are five great reasons that every hotel should have a mobile tour app:

  1. A Mobile App Provides a Preview of Your Hotel: Statistics show that more and more people are accessing the web via their mobile device each year, yet many hotel websites have not caught up. A mobile app is an effective way to orient potential visitors and to give them a virtual tour of the property and amenities.
  2. A Mobile App is a Portal for Reservations: Once a site visitor has had the chance to view a virtual tour of your property, they can instantly parlay that into action by porting directly from the app into the hotel’s reservation systems. A mobile app provides the visitor with an instant course of action to book a room.
  3. Instant Customer Feedback: Thanks to instant information transmitted from the app, hotels can become aware of guest issues while the customer is in the hotel–and allows you the opportunity to remedy the issue immediately.
  4. Analytics Provide Valuable Customer Data: Apps can provides analytics that help hotels understand and market to their target audience. Much like the Google Analytics gathered from website visits, TourSphere analytics provide demographic and behavioral information about the people accessing your app.
  5. A Mobile App Provides a 24×7 Concierge: Many hotel visitors are more accustomed to turning to their smartphones to advice instead of a concierge. For that audience, a mobile app can provide a “virtual concierge” that orients the visitor, informs them of area attractions and provides them a full listing of the hotel’s amenities. It creates a labor-free service for the hotel to help enhance the guests’ experience without implementing costly programs and additional concierges and guides.

Curious about how hotels are utilizing TourSphere to create mobile apps for marketing and virtual concierge purposes? Check out the Mountainview Grand app or the Chandler Inn app that helps visitors explore Boston!

Five Easy Ways to Create Content for Your Mobile App

16 Jan

For many museums, hotels and tourism sites looking to create an app, one of the more daunting aspects of the process is creating the content that will go into the tour itself. As we hear so often with social media, it’s essential to have great, engaging content to draw your visitor in and ensure the app enhances their experience with you, whether they are accessing it on-site or remotely. One of the benefits of TourSphere is that we make it extremely easy to create an app by providing you with an easy way to organize your content into a virtual tour. Of course, that means you must have content to organize. Whether it’s audio clips, videos, photos or text, there are easy ways to create engaging, interesting and professional content quickly and on a budget.

  1. Enlist the Interns: If your interns are sorting through spreadsheets and delivering mail, you’re not using them right. College students are extremely familiar with recording video and audio on their iPhones and editing it quickly and professionally. Give interns ownership of a piece of content–whether that’s an interview that needs to be recorded, voiceovers, or an existing piece of content that needs cleanup and editing. With inexpensive equipment and software, they can create fantastic and creative pieces of content. This method not only gets your app content done well, it also gives your interns a purpose and sense of accomplishment.
  2. Tap Into After-Hours Talent: Before you decide to hire a voiceover artist or team of historical re-enactment actors, check around the office to see what your colleagues are doing after hours. Do some of them have theater degrees collecting dust or recurring roles in community theater? Do they have the perfect voice for narration? Don’t assume you need to pay a lot of money for great work in these areas. It’s important the work is professional, but often this can be done by enlisting the help of the people who already work at your organization–and the project can be a lot of fun for them as well.
  3. Use What You’ve Got: Do you have a bank of professional photos of your museum artwork or the various areas of your hotel? Use these as a way to guide on-site visitors and a way to orient those using the app remotely. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Simply freshen your collection by adding anything new and including great write-ups about each site or, better yet, audio narration on each tour stop.
  4. Outsource It: When you don’t have the time or the expertise in-house to create excellent content, it’s time to turn to the experts. While we encourage building your own app with our TourSphere Builder, we also offer content development services that take the burden off you and allow you to feature professional, integrated photo, audio and video content in your mobile app.
  5. Invest in Inexpensive Hardware: If you’re planning to create a lot of content, it’s likely worthwhile to invest in some hardware like a camera or audio equipment that will make high-quality multimedia content. Thanks to technology, it’s not expensive to buy equipment that makes fantastic recordings–sometimes even a good iPhone app will do (for more on this check out our DIY content series). And this provides you with the ability to update your content quickly and easily if you need to change your app. If you’re recording video, plan to invest in a tripod–a steady shot is the difference between an amateur and a professional recording.

Tell us: What are some creative ways you’ve developed your app content?

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